Perth Glory have appealed to New Zealand soccer hierarchy to treat star striker Shane Smeltz with respect in their looming friendly against China.
Smeltz returned from a hamstring strain for the Glory against Adelaide United in the A-League on Sunday, coming from the bench to play about 20 minutes.
The 31-year-old then boarded a plane for Shanghai, where New Zealand will play China in a friendly on Wednesday night.
Smeltz's injury restricted him to just one A-League game prior to Sunday and Perth coach Ian Ferguson hopes New Zealand realise the attacking linchpin is lacking match fitness.
The Glory have discussed Smeltz's situation with the All Whites, coached by Wellington Phoenix mentor Ricki Herbert.
"The national team and our club have been in touch ... just to be a little bit mindful and respectful that he has not got any game time, so we don't want him to go and play the 90 minutes," Ferguson said.
"Maybe a spot on the bench would probably be a wee bit more realistic.
"At the end of the day, it's not a World Cup game, it's a friendly, so there shouldn't be any risks taking by Smeltzy - I hope not anyway."
New Zealand's next match in their World Cup qualification group is in March next year.
The All Whites are unbeaten in four Oceania zone matches against New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Tahiti.
Should the New Zealanders log an expected group win, they will face an intercontinental play-off match against the fourth-placed team from the North, Central America and Caribbean zone, with the victor claiming a spot in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
New Zealand have made two World Cups, in 1982 and 2010 when, although not advancing past the group stage they were the only nation not to lose a game, with three drawn matches.